Subject: Lusa: Defense asks arms charges be dropped against ex-minister

East Timor: Defense asks arms charges be dropped against ex-minister

Dili, July 18 (Lusa) - Defense lawyers for East Timor's former interior minister, Rogério Lobato, indicted on charges of having armed purported "death squads", have asked a Dili court to drop the accusations, arguing that the country's attorney-general had exercised his position illegally.

Macau-based lawyers Paulo Remédios and Luís Mendonça de Freitas told Lusa by telephone that they had presented the motion in Dili Friday.

"The case has been tainted from the start because Mr. Longuinhos Monteiro was not the Attorney-General of the Republic at the time the process (against Lobato) was opened", the defense lawyers said.

Monteiro, who has served as attorney-general since 2001 under Dili's then-UN transition administration, was formally sworn in to his post Monday by President Xanana Gusmão.

Monteiro indicted Lobato last month of on four counts that carry a maximum sentence of 15 years - criminal association, illegal possession of weapons, conspiracy and attempted revolution.

Monteiro has summoned former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri for questioning on Wednesday by investigating magistrates as a "suspect" in the same case.

The president demanded the resignations of Alkatiri and Lobato, holding them responsible for weeks of violence that left 37 dead and more than 130,000 people displaced and forced Dili to call in international peacekeepers.



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